Today unprecedented volumes of data are being generated every moment, every day now. But governments have been collecting and holding huge volumes of some of the most valuable data in the world. The process has of course surged with technological developments during the last 10-15 years. Data collection has never been easier, storage never cheaper. We are witnessing leaps in computing power and widespread availability of open-source tools.
Opening data, so that it can be accessed, analysed and distributed by anyone, within or outside government is essential to unlocking the potential of data.
The United Nations has adopted seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that set an ambitious agenda to end poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change by 2030. Open data is crucial for the successful achievement of the SDGs. It is essential to building accountable and effective institutions
Last year, we wrote about an in-progress UN study on open data and big data, which is considering the value, ethical, legal and regulatory context and associated security and privacy risks. Last month, The Cape Town Global Action Plan for Sustainable Development Data was launched at the first ever United Nations World Data Forum.
Open Knowledge International (OKI) defines Open Data on the basis of the criteria of Availability and access, Reuse and redistribution and Universal participation. The Open Data Barometer uses a similar definition based on online bulk availability, machine readability, open-licensing and free of charge.
New open data initiatives are being announced every day and majority of countries have ongoing open data initiatives. Many have centralised data portals. But even if the first step of getting government agencies and departments to allocate the budget and staff needed to publish integrated, anonymised data is accomplished, barriers remain.
Quality is ignored in pursuit of quantity. Large number of datasets released by governments might not be easily downloadable or usable, which means they don’t fit the definition of open data.
Even if usable data is available, citizens or civic society groups might not be using it. It could be due to a lack of awareness or absence of a culture of openness, where citizens are encouraged to ask questions and engage. The support of a legal framework is necessary with safeguards on freedom of information and incentives for transparency.
Below, we take a look at the current status of open government data in 7 countries from south-east Asia, in alphabetical order. We include rankings from the Open Data Barometer, which considers 1) Readiness (How prepared are governments for open data initiatives? What policies are in place?); 2) Implementation (Are governments putting their commitments into practice?) and 3) Impact (Is open government data being used in ways that bring practical benefit?). Published by the World Wide Web Foundation, it relies on A peer reviewed expert survey, a government self-assessment and selected secondary data.
We also look at the Global Open Data Index (GODI), published by OKI, is an independent assessment from a citizen’s perspective or a civil society audit of open data.
Indonesia was ranked at the 40th position in the 2015 ODB barometer (41 in the GODI, with 40% openness), dropping 4 places from the previous year. It scored 46, 36 and 14 on readiness, implementation and impact respectively.
Indonesia was one of the 8 founding states of the Open Government Partnership (a multilateral initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.)
In Indonesia, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) of 2008 provides the legal guarantee to access information held by public bodies through proper request channels.
In June 2016, the Jakarta Post reported that the government is preparing a presidential regulation on open data. The data portal, Data.go.id was opened to the public in 2014, in an initiative supported by the World Bank. Currently, t over 1,200 datasets provided by 32 central and local government institutions are shared on the portal. Local governments have launched their own open data portals in Jakarta, Bandung and Banda Aceh. The 3rd Open data Barometer report from 2016 also highlights the progress made in Jakarta, Bandung and Banda Aceh, and the regencies of Bojonegoro and Semarang. It was critical of the slowdown in progress during 2014 and 2015 and went on to state that will be critical to publish key datasets as open data, including spending, budget and contract data to advance the open data agenda in the country.
As of 2015, Malaysia had an ODB rank of 51, compared to a rank of 41 in 2014 (its ranking in the citizen driven GODI was a significantly weaker 112, reflecting potential need for boosting citizen awareness and adoption). It scored 46, 7 and 16 on readiness, implementation and impact respectively.
Accelerating implementation of Public Sector Open Data Initiative is one of the key strategic thrusts in The Malaysian Public Sector ICT Strategic Plan 2016-2020. It is to be implemented through a three-pronged strategy:
- Develop the framework and direction for implementing Open Data Initiative
- Identify, classify and publish open data sets in agencies, as well as identify data needs of the agencies clients
- Coordinate the contents of the Open Data Portal and develop mechanism to publish open data sets
At the Public Sector CIO Convex 2016, Tan Sri Dr. Ali Bin Hamsa, Chief Secretary to the Government of Malaysia, underlined open data as one of the key focus areas. At the time, 1463 data sets were available in the Public Sector Open Data Portal, data.gov.my, which has subsequently increased to 1729, as of 3 February 2017. The target is to increase it to 7000 datasets by 2020. Improving this platform is key to unlocking its value through community usage and creation of applications.
Datasets are clustered into Community & social, Education, Human resource, Agriculture, environment, economy & finance, health and tourism. Citizens can request datasets from specific ministries or departments. Malaysia does not have freedom of information law at the federal level. The states of Selangor and Penang have passed Freedom of Information bills at the state-level.
In furtherance of the open data initiative, the Malaysian public service is collaborating with the Open Data Institute and the World Bank. An Open Data Readiness Assessment was conducted by the Malaysian government together with the World Bank earlier in November.
Philippines had an ODB rank of 36 in 2015 (78 in the GODI, with 25% openness), improving from 53 in 2015. It scored 55, 32 and 28 on readiness, implementation and impact respectively.
Philippines is the second country from south-east Asia to be among the 8 founding states of the Open Government Partnership. Philippines was one of the 8 founding states of the Open Government Partnership (a multilateral initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.)
In a November 2016 announcement, plans were revealed to create an active exchange of information between the government and the public by introducing a central database for all publicly available government data and information.
A Freedom of Information (FOI) Executive Order passed in July 2016 cements the public’s rights to government information. Data.gov.ph (Open Data Philippines) would serve as the central portal. Governments agencies will pro-actively request data and requests may be submitted for accessing information not available. Currently 923 datasets are available on Data.gov.ph, across 10 categories.
The Presidential Communications and Operations Office (PCOO), in partnership with the newly formed Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the World Bank, conducted a workshop for national government agencies on October 10, 2016 to introduce the Electronic FOI (eFOI). The eFOI will have an online platform where citizens can lodge an FOI request, get updates on their requests, and receive their requested information.
A series of consultations and workshops were held for National Government Agencies, Government Owned and Controlled Corporations, State Universities and Colleges, and Civil Society Organization, prior to the introduction of the eFOI platform on November 25, 2016. The platform will be available to a few government agencies for its beta phase. The eFOI platform aims to be available for the rest of the government offices covered by the FOI Executive Order by 2017 to 2018.
Citizens can submit their requests or browse others’ on Foi.gov.ph. The current status of requests is displayed and statistics are available on request outcomes and the response from agencies.
Please click here for our in-depth report on Singapore government's open data initiatives and plans)
Singapore was ranked 24 on the ODB Barometer (23rd on the GODI, with 50% openness), improving 5 places from the previous year, scoring 72, 51 and 32 on readiness, implementation and impact respectively.
Singapore does not have a freedom of information law. However, it is ranked highest in the region on Open data availability.
Data.gov.sg currently has around 1000 datasets on the website. The higher frequency datasets, primarily environment and transport data, are on the Developers’ page, launched in April 2016. The government has shifted focus from quantity to quality of datasets, to ensure that data is machine-readable, and that it is easily understandable for the public. Visualisations were added for the latter. The public beta of the new portal was launched in July 2015.
A data quality guide was disseminated. Government agencies were requested to implement the standards and submit datasets based on Data.gov.sg’s requirements. Data.gov.sg worked through examples with the agencies, explaining what the data is used for and why it should be structured this way.
During last year, a simply-worded and easy to understand Open Data Licence was released. Previously there was no standardised licence for data published by government agencies.
In a recent interview with OpenGov, Lin Zhaowei, Consultant, Data Science Division, Government Technology Agency of Singapore said,“We want to work more closely with agencies, in order to respond more quickly to requests from the public, so that we can release more useful datasets. We also want to increase the number of APIs and improve their reliability, minimising disruptions. Work will continue for improving the website. We will enhance the user experience by adding functionality, such as allowing people to compare datasets.
To improve awareness, adoption and impact, the agency actively engages with citizen groups and drives a range of initiatives from data visualisation workshop for journalists to contests for students from tertiary education insitutes.
Thailand had an ODB rank of 57 in 2015 (42 on the GODI with 39% openness; it had scored a 100% on procurement tenders), scoring 30, 19 and 0 on readiness, implementation and impact respectively. It dropped 5 places in comparison with the previous year.
The Official Information Act (RTI Act) of Thailand was approved in July 1997 and went into effect in December 1997, allowing citizens to demand official information from central, provincial and local administrations, state enterprises, the courts for information un-associated with the trial and adjudication of cases, professional supervisory organisations, independent agencies of the state and other agencies.
Thailand has a central data portal in the form of Data.go.th. The website currently has 893 datasets related to the economy, Finance and Industry, politics and government, education, law and courts, transportation, social welfare, agriculture and more.
The Electronic Government Agency (EGA), under the supervision of the Minister of Information and Communications Technology is responsible for providing citizens access to more services online. The scope of their work includes sharing data on the government’s spending.
Vietnam had an ODB rank of 57 in 2015, improving from 53 in 2015. scoring 21, 23 and 12 on readiness, implementation and impact respectively.
In April 2016, the Vietnam government approved legislation on the Access to Information Law. According to the law, the provision of information must be timely, transparent, accurate and convenient for citizens, with the caveat that all information released must have been previously declassified by the government. It restricts access to information from certain areas.
Open data will continue to be a priority for governments in south-east Asia and around the world in the near to medium-term future. Having true open data is not a step which can be skipped on the path to sustainable development. OpenGov see open data as a focus area for 2017 and we will continue to report on related developments.